Aristotle begins his loosely
(to say the least) organized dissertation with his ideas about the household and
the building blocks of community. He begins by talking about natural unions.
First comes the union between man and woman. This union is aimed at the goal of
fulfilling certain natural needs, namely the desire to reproduce. Next, is the
union of the family, where the man, as with his wife, is the natural ruler of
his children. He has great authority and responsibility in this role. He rules
over his wife for her own good. Aristotle believes that men possess a natural
role as masters. Yet the man's wife and family are not slaves, because the man
looks out for their interests (unlike the slave-master union in which the master
principally looks out for his own interests, not the slave's). After several
families begin living with one another in a community of sorts, a village forms.
Several villages, likewise, form a polis- the vital system of societal
preservation. All these unions, on every level have one purpose- to promote
goodness, which is a natural human phenomenon. Aristotle admits, "The final
and perfect association formed from a number of villages, is the polis...it
exists for the sake of a good life."
Indeed man is a
"political animal"-- a being who has a natural goal (telos) to live in
a polis and engage in politics. Government is not a human invention, but a
natural outgrowth of community life. The purpose of government is to maintain
justice. Aristotle asserts, "Man, when perfected, is the best of animals;
but if he is isolated from law and justice he is the worse of all."
Next, Aristotle justifies his
defense of property- namely, slavery. He maintains that slaves are simply
possessions of other men, destined by nature to serve. He asserts that the union
between slave and master is indeed natural, for both parties receive mutual
benefits. The master receives service and labor while the slave in turn receives
protection and a means to express his natural sense of duty to the master.
Aristotle concludes, "...there are species in which a distinction is
already marked, immediately at birth, between those of its members who are
intended for being ruled and those who are intended to rule..." Here
slavery, like any other natural union, is a means to the end of goodness. The
interests of the master, not the slave, are that goodness.
Later, Aristotle rejects
Plato's socialism. Aristotle is a strong proponent of private, not communal
property. Through his many practical observations (something Plato doesn't deem
important), Aristotle realizes that the idealistic concept of shared possessions
is simply an ideal, certainly not attainable by humans, since it contradicts the
laws of nature.